Nefertiti, the Spidernaut: The Jumping Spider Who Learned To Hunt in Space

illus. by Valeria Tisnés. 32p. further reading. glossary. websites. Mims House. Sept. 2016. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781629440606; pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781629440613; ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9781629440620.
Gr 1–3—In 2012, a jumping spider named Nefertiti spent 100 days aboard the International Space Station as part of an experiment proposed by 18-year-old Amr Mohamed, from Alexandria, Egypt. While the story itself is full of exciting potential, this rendition fails to take off. The brief description of the hunting practices of this species is misleading in its simplicity ("On earth, a spider would jump to catch its food and then land on the ground"), and readers won't grasp the potential difficulties that a jumping spider would encounter in adapting to a low-gravity environment. The technical oversimplifications and print size suggest the book is aimed at a younger audience, but emerging readers will be frustrated by vocabulary words such as larvae, dragline, and abdomen, which are not defined. The glossary contains only three words (spidernaut, microgravity, and hypothesis). Readers unfamiliar with microgravity environments and jumping spiders will be confused, and those already familiar with these topics are unlikely to learn more. In addition, the author mentions in the notes, not in the main text, that this major international experiment was proposed by a teen. Furthermore, the illustrations, while colorful, are unlikely to attract readers.
VERDICT Skip this bland treatment and share the news clippings instead.

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